Saturday 23 December 2017

A Week in Pictures Middle East & Africa December 22, 2017

A few days before Christmas and protesters are wearing Santa Claus outfits to hurl stones at the Israeli military. Mohammad Torokman’s surreal, balletic image catches not only the stone in mid flight but the weird sheen of the red costume as the light catches the synthetic material. The soldiers in the background don’t look too worried. See more here

A Palestinian demonstrator dressed as Santa Claus hurls stones towards Israeli troops during clashes at a protest against U.S President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the West bank city of Ramallah December 19, 2107.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

As a follow on to Mohammad’s picture it’s worth mentioning that at all security advice training courses one is taught to ‘blend in, don’t stand out’ and be the ‘grey man’. It seems that this advice should have been better heeded or maybe it’s being ignored to make a point. Looking at pictures from previous years here it seems the latter is true.

A wounded Palestinian demonstrator dressed as Santa Claus is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops, at a protest as Palestinians called for a ‘A Day of Rage’ in response to U.S President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip December 22, 2017.   REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

As a nod to my love of commodity stories Ange Aboa’s picture really caught my eye. The strong left to right flow of the picture as the worker pulls the heavy sack of beans off the ground aided by the low angle of the bare footed man walking away, his toes echoing the tone, colour and shape of the scattered beans on the ground. I also like the warm sepia feel of this picture, which is wonderful as it’s about the raw materials that go to make up chocolate.

Workers transport sacks of cocoa beans in Ntui village, Cameroon, December 17, 2017.   REUTERS/Ange Aboa

A moment perfectly captured by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa as each militant figure forms the unmistakable shape of a combatant. What I really like about this picture is that each figure is clearly isolated in their own space, no part of any of them invading the space of another. Bizarrely, I am put in mind of classic images of soldiers used in illustrations or even action figures. 

Palestinian militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) demonstrate their skills during a military exercise in front of the media, on a beach in the southern Gaza Strip December 22, 2017.    REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Silhouettes and sunsets are easy, low hanging fruit for nice pictures but rarely do they catch my eye or make me pause for thought. Ahmed Jadallah’s picture in Dubai is an exception to this and for many of the same reasons that I selected Ibraheem’s picture above. Just about every silhouetted figure is isolated in their own space. What is different is that a railing joins them all, but for me this only adds to the layered feel of the image. Distinct bands of shadow and highlight lead you to the background of the picture where the setting sun is sufficiently obscured that we see a yellow glow and not an over exposed white.

People watch the sunset in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 21, 2017.  REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

This picture by Muhammad Hamed selects itself, not only is it a picture of a VW Beetle (why is it that everyone seems to love this car?) but it is shot as an ‘environmental portrait’ with wonderful details that makes you want to look and look. First is the advert for ‘the smallest hotel’ which I think is a dreadful painting of the castle in the background, a promise of a wonderful view from the ‘hotel’. Then you quickly notice the car is balanced on rocks that hold it off the ground. Next you see the footwear of the occupants left outside, no doubt to ensure the interior is not made dirty and then finally the decoration to disguise the fact that this is, in reality, a broken down car. You might even be able to see the small Santa Claus figure on the roof, I assume an attempt to drum up seasonal trade. Having slept in cars on many occasions I will not be booking this up but I am sure many others will.

A Volkswagen Beetle, the ‘World’s smallest hotel’ as its owner Mohammed Al-Malahim claims, is seen in Shoubak, Jordan December 20, 2017.  REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

In very much the same way people like VWs, I can’t help being drawn to the long suffering beast of burden, the donkey. Not quite sure why, as animals come a far second to people, but I’m adding these pictures by Alaa Al-Marjani (although shot in November it was only published this week) as personal favourites. First it really struck me just how primitive the nature of the brick works are, but it also slightly gladdened my heart that now we are getting images of construction and not destruction from Iraq.  I really like the mirror image feel of Alaa’s picture as the donkeys face each other. Very powerful visually for me too is the smoke from the chimneys drifting into the blue skies, the blackened stack almost the focal point of the image. I can’t help feeling a sense of hope as the industry of rebuilding starts to take shape. 

Iraqi labourers work at a brick factory in Najaf, Iraq November 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Iraqi labourers carry brick on a cart pulled by a donkey at a brick factory in Najaf, Iraq November 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Never far from my mind is the conflict in Yemen, maybe it’s because I am often looking at images that rarely make their way into publication. Abduljabbar Zeyad’s distressing picture of tiny Nadia cries out to me in all senses. The obvious fear and feeble cries of the child is captured with the open mouth and wide-open eyes, a spot catches light in the centre of the dark eye. This frightening scene frozen in a harsh direct light is framed by a riot of clashing cheerful colours, pinks, reds blues and greens, a medical tube snaking across the whole scene, maybe offering a glimmer of hope for survival.

Sixty-day-old Nadia Ahmad Sabri, who suffers from severe malnutrition, lies in bed at a malnutrition treatment centre in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, Yemen December 20, 2017.   REUTERS/Abduljabber Zeyad

Finally for 2017 I am very proud that Zohra Bensemra, staff photographer for Reuters who is based in Algeria and has travelled throughout the Middle East and Africa in 2017, has won the Guardian award for Agency Photographer of the Year. You can see some of her work here.

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